Diary of a SAHD: One and done.

Well, getting down to it now. One small hurdle and as they say, that will be that. It’s been quite the journey. At times it seems like yesterday and then sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago. 21 months ago we were blessed with this:

From my deep sea diving collection - the latest in incubator wear.

From my deep sea diving collection – the latest in incubator wear.

a 1lb 12oz question mark.

She was a question mark because we had no idea what would happen or how to handle, of if we could handle, the whole deal. We didn’t know what to do while in the hospital for almost five months. We were clueless to what issues we would be bringing home, or if we would even get the chance to bring her home.

We were lucky by most standards. We did get to bring her home. We left the NICU with a heart monitor and zero medication. Occupational and speech therapy awaited, but again by most standards for a 1lb 12oz micro-preemie, we got off easy. The OT was in-home and at a local facility once a week, speech was in home once a week as well. Our dance card was full for sure but it was an uncomplicated two step even a rhythmless bastard like me could manage.

As the months went by we shed the heart monitor, then the RSV vaccinations. A few months ago we finished up with the out patient Occupation Therapy, leaving only the in home therapies remaining.

Or should I say therapy.

She can't say Iggles! yet, but I'm working on it.

From a question mark to a 21 month, 24.8 pound exclamation point

Today is a big milestone for us. The speech therapist discharged Anne Marie today. Usually these types of things last until the 2nd birthday, 3 months from now in our case. But after hearing Anne Marie begin to speak in sentences and refer to her breakfast as eggs and sausaeeeg, (read that with an Italian accent), the speech therapist deemed her ahead of her peers. That’s her actual age peers by the way not her adjusted age peers.

Even looking at the pictures now it’s hard to believe that any of it happened. That’s the lifetime ago part. To see her at 1lb just doesn’t compute with what we see now. Just the other day I scolded her for throwing everything off the kitchen table. I never thought I would get to the point of scolding that little kid with all the tubes up her nose.  This kid we thought might be fragile, have development issues, be lagging behind her peers, yeah not hardly. Go back through the archives and read some of the stuff this kid has pulled, the weird pain threshold she has, it’s bizarre.

We knew Frank would be in for a surprise when Anne Marie came home, turns out we all were surprised.

The big one came when the speech therapist said it was time to discharge her. I was more ready than Tracy, but still it seemed very early for that. Liz, the speech lady said “Yeah it is, but she’s past all the goals of a 21 month old, we’re working on 24-28 month old stuff now and she’s doing that too.

Yeah I’m bragging, sue me.

Looks like her mother, but "The Look" she gets from me.

Looks like her mother, but “The Look” she gets from me.

So 21 months later we say goodbye to Liz the speech lady and thank her for her service.

Here is the extremely talented Ms Liz and her star pupil.

Another bonus for me, no frantic cleaning of the house on Tuesday mornings so Liz doesn’t find out we live like animals most of the time. Anyway, she was great. Again we were fortunate to get one of the best in the business to help our little pistol named Anne Marie.

I get that this may seem minor to y’all. In reality it probably is. However, one thing we learned, one thing that was ingrained in us during our time in the NICU; celebrate every step forward. Every ounce of weight gain, every ounce of milk from a bottle instead of the feeding tube, every hour without a heart or breathing failure, celebrate these things.

James said “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.” The morrow? Bro we didn’t know where we might be by the next minute.

A new minute has arrived. So we celebrate.

Sue me.

Diary of a SHAD: A traitor in our midst.

There is a myriad of reasons Mrs Frank’s Place is out of my league. Way out of my league. Too many to name here, but one area in particular comes to the forefront as the college basketball season starts to wind up.

She’s a huge sports fan. This is a great quality but can be a double edged sword at times.

On the plus side we get to watch a lot of sports. A lot of college sports. She’s also a huge fan of the Olympics. One Winter Games I had pneumonia and was laid up for a week. We watched Olympic Curling all day long for like 6 days.

She also saved me a little embarrassment when I met the dude who ran the sports at the University of Tennessee. When we ended up in the same church group with the athletic director from the University of Tennessee, she pointed him out. I said, that dude? He said his name is Mike. She says yeah and he runs the Athletic Department at UT, he’s a big deal. I had no clue. I grew up on pro sports, being 45 minutes from Phila. He was just a regular dude to me. Still is.

As always I would regale my friends at the base with stories on Monday mornings and when I repeated this one a few were quite impressed. Although they were more than slightly embarrassed for me that I had no idea who or what an athletic director was. They were slightly bowled over that Mrs Franks Place had to explain the importance of it all to me. I’m all like, dude she’s a huge sports fan. ESPN plays in our house more than anything. We were once late for a Christmas Party so we could see the Heisman Trophy presentation the year Carson Palmer from USC won it. Their mouths hit the floor. When I said I was retiring to raise Frank, (and later his sister AM), she achieved goddess like status in their eyes.

But all that comes with a price.

She’s a Kentucky fan. As in University of Kentucky, class of 95, homecoming queen in 94. When I met her in 2000 living in Knoxville, Volunteer country, she would be pretty reserved during football, and a maniac during basketball season. When Kentucky routinely whupped Tennessee in basketball she would call all her friends in Knoxville to bust their chops. When we went to games I had to keep my head on a swivel as she would degrade and demean Tennessee fans in her all blue and white get up.

We went to the Kansas – Tennessee game in Knoxville in 2010. Kansas was ranked #1 in the country and Tennessee saw half it’s starting roster go to the slammer after being arrested for drugs/driving/alcohol stuff a few days prior to that game. With a band of misfits and walk-on players UT upset by God #1 Kansas. She wore blue and cheered for Kansas the whole time.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too.  Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too. Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

We no longer go to games together.

She takes all the fun out of it. I’m no longer young enough nor do I have the desire to fight every hayseed who bleeds UT Orange, because my wife yells out “UT sucks” while we walk back to our car.

The picture left is us at our last game together. UT beat Kentucky by 30. In the picture you can see Tracy is worried about the score. I’m clearly calculating the hotdog to fan ratio and thinking I should make a run to the concession stand before the buns go empty.

I can live with the UK stuff for the most part. But it’s starting to rub off on my kids. And now I have a problem with it.

We have essentially swapped gender roles. Regardless of how much you hear about stay at home dads being on the rise, we’re still a minuscule part of the population. Not even 1% if I remember correctly. So I get that we’ve swapped and I’m cool with it. I’m the most secure dude I know, and this was my choice. And I have swapped with a person who could easily fill the traditional man’s role as it pertains to sports. I mean, she runs like a wounded duck but she can dissect football, hockey, basketball, curling, you name it.

She doesn’t pick winners based on mascots or helmet design. When we entered pool for the NCAA BBall championship, I won, but she came in second. It was a huge group and the winners take was over four digits. In other words there were a lot of people in this thing and she beat them all except me.

But still, introducing the kids to sports is my job. Or so I thought. It’s one role I wanted to keep. But the force is strong with Mrs Frank’s Place and she hates Tennessee sports with a white hot passion.

Et Tu Grammy?

Et Tu Grammy?

Because of that, Frank learned to chant C-A-T-S cats, cats, cats (as in Kentucky Wildcats) when he was two. Whenever any of my students would give us Tennessee apparel for our new arrival, Frank in this case, she would hide it. When I did manage to get him in an Orange and White onsie, her mom took him upstairs to change his diaper and he came down wearing UK Blue.

Here’s Grammy indoctrinating the boy at Rupp Arena in Lexington Kentucky.




We’ve even tried compromise:


188523_4782989174659_1713387405_n 311220_4782980774449_172109976_nDidn’t work because at the end of the day the boy still chants C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats.

I try to explain to her that I’ll have to teach him how to fight as he goes to a Volunteer dominated school in his blue a white Kentucky garb.

I even used the old, “why are you ruining this for me, this is a sacred thing between a boy and his father.” She’s unfazed. I get crickets out of her.

Well I’ve come to the realization that Frank is a lost cause. I’ll never be able to enjoy going to games with him because he’ll shout all manner of obscenities his mother taught him at anyone wearing UT Orange. Being a fan of UK means hating UT. I can’t enjoy sports like that.

So she can have Frank.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

But this one is mine.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the only reason we have Anne Marie.

Without the people at the UT NICU Anne Marie would not have made it.

So Orange and White it is. Guess what I’m stuffing her stocking with this Christmas.

The sweet irony; even though she won’t need to, Anne Marie already knows how to fight.






Diary of a SAHD: Coming into her own – and then some.

Purple?  Don't mind if I do.

Purple? Don’t mind if I do.

WARNING: The following is a mix between quasi update and gratuitous daddy bragging on my daughter.  If you’re sickened by parents gushing on their kids, this post ain’t for you.  The next blog over is doing something on pro-football cheerleaders, knock yourself out.

On to the gushing.

The prevailing theory on micro-preemies is that they can catch up to their “normal” peers by two or three years of age.  To do that preemies will likely have various therapies after discharge from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  For Anne Marie that amounted to a speech therapist and an occupational therapist once a week.  Both are top notch people.

Because of them, AM is a good bit ahead of schedule.  To that end we have bid goodbye to Miss Kelly, the occupational therapist.  AM is 17 months old actual and 12.5 months old adjusted.  She’s doing some amazing things.  The doc was so impressed with AM’s abilities she felt there was no reason to continue.  Kelly had a lot if not all to do with that and we at Frank’s Place thank her for her service.

It was pretty obvious from the beginning she would not really face any serious physical issues. My fear, the one that kept me up at night, was her cognitive, or mental ability.  There is no guessing or approximating with that.  You’ll just know when you know.  My fears have been unfounded.

I got your kiddie gate right here old man.

I got your kiddie gate right here old man.

This picture is all the proof necessary.

If it’s hard to make out, she is building a ladder to climb over the gate guarding the stairs.  Not quite the Great Escape, but still damn impressive.  That is a full diaper box I mistakenly left in the kitchen.  She pushed it to stairs with the express purpose of jumping the gate. Therapy? Yeah don’t think so.  I’m not sure Frank can’t even do that now and he’s four.   Well he could physically do it, but he wouldn’t bother thinking about it.  Maybe he needs therapy.  I know I do.

The girl has made her presence felt in the hood too.

When she could crawl she would go to the door and look out the side window at the kids doing kid things in the cul-de-sac.  She wanted out bad.  So now that she’s older she can get out there, germs be damned.  And she’s announcing herself with some authority.

Right now she’s the only girl out there amongst five boys.  Until her neighbor Caroline gets to walking Anne Marie is dealing with them all on her own. That’s a tall order.

But I think she’s doing OK.

Once around the park James, you know how I love the park.

Once around the park James, you know how I love the park.

That’s not really James in the picture.  That’s our next door neighbor Bennett.  He’s the good hearted one of the hood.  When Frank almost killed him by pushing Bennett’s car into the curb at high speed, Bennett jumped out of the wreckage, gave his car a kick and a few choice baby words and turned to Frank.  Looked like some kid on kid crime was about to go down. But Bennett gave Frank a hug.  He’s a good kid. I was yelling at him to pop Frank in the mouth or at least drop him with a kidney punch once he had Frank in a hug.  But he didn’t, just hugged Frank and said it was OK.  Bennett my friend, we have to work on your road rage.

Just kidding Whitney.

While all this was going on, Anne Marie was sampling just about every toy in the street.

Not sure these boys know what they’re in for.